230 B. POLEVOI He would walk out of the house with a smile on his flushed face, carelessly fanning himself with his hand- kerchief; but no sooner did he pass through the door than the smile gave way to a wince of pain. Clinging to the handrail, he staggered, groaning, down the steps of the porch, dropped on to the dewy grass and, pressing his whole body to the moist and still warm ground, wept with the pain caused by the tight straps of his artificial feet. He unfastened the straps to relieve his legs. When he felt rested, he fastened them again, jumped up and strode back to the house. He reappeared unnoticed in the hall where the sweating accordion-player was tirelessly pumping out the music, approached red-haired Zinochka who was already searching for him in the crowd with her eyes, smiled a broad smile, exposing his white, regular, porcelainlike teeth, and the agile, graceful couple would again glide into the circle. Zinochka would chide him for leaving her, he would retort with a jest, and they would whirl round in no way different from the rest of the dancers. These hard dancing exercises soon produced results. Alexei felt less and less fettered by the artificial feet; they seemed to become grafted to his legs. Alexei was pleased. Only one thing caused him anxiety now—the absence of letters from Olya. More than a month had passed since—after Gvozdev's unfortunate experience with his girl—he had sent her that fatal, as he now regarded it, and at all events absolutely absurd letter, but no reply came. Every morning, after his gym- nastics and running exercises, which he daily increased by a hundred paces, he would go to the letter-rack in the reception-room to see whether there were any letters for him. There were always more letters in the pigeon- hole "M" than in any of the others, but he sorted the batch in vain. One day, during a dancing lesson, Burnazyan's dark head appeared at the recreation hall window. In his hand he held his walking-stick and a letter. Before he could utter a word Alexei snatched the envelope, which was addressed in a large, round, schoolgirl's hand, and ran off, leaving astonished Burnazyan at the window and his angry teacher in the middle of the room.